Monday, September 13, 2021

Never Mind the Billhooks Test Game

With no RPG this week, I decided to play a solo test game of Never Mind the Billhooks.

Now I have been interested in the Wars of the Roses for a long time - many years ago we played a 6-player campaign using Warmaster rules, and the campaign rules which we used were submitted to and published in Miniatures Wargame magazine.

Warmaster is a fun set of rules for quick play in a club setting, but I always felt that the armies were too generic and lacked period flavour. I have tried several other sets of rules over the years, including Flower of Chivalry, Blood Barons (first edition), and For Lord Tomorrow is a Busy Day, but none really hit the spot for me.

Then NMTBH dropped in the September 2020 issue of Wargames Illustrated magazine, and suddenly everybody was talking about it. I read a few reviews, and decided to get a hardcopy of the rules and the game cards.

So how do the rules play?

I enjoyed the Manoeuvre phase of the game, when the players would take turns moving units of their armies until one of the decided to shoot or move a unit into melee, when the game proper (with all the phases and activations) would begin. This reduced the amount of time taken before the two sides came to grips, and more importantly gave a sense of manoeuvring - I will really have to look at implementing this in my other games.

The gameplay itself is rather crunchy, requiring players to keep track of number of volleys shot by every archer units, as well as casualties (if using multi-based figures) and disorder and morale tokens. The use of buckets of dice for combat resolution and Special Events/chance cards means things can be unpredictable, but the latter also gave players more decision points and made for a gamey-er game.

Over all I enjoyed the flow of the game. Units deployed, manoeuvred into positions of advantage (or tried to), before the first shots are loosed, announcing the start of combat. Then players have to decide whether to stay at a distance and trade volleys, or brave the arrow storm and try to close for melee and decide things with cold steel... The plodding nature of the infantry means initial deployment is important. In my test game the Lancastrians masked their own gun, the result of which was it never got to fire throughout the game.

I played for about 6 turns before I had to take a break - these rules are a little too crunchy to be played solo. I am looking forward to playing against other players soon.

If you are thinking of getting these rules, you may want to note that a new edition is in the works, with a planned publication date of around Christmas this year.

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